PARIS – Europe’s human rights court ruled Tuesday that Russia must pay damages and legal costs to U.S. citizens who were barred from adopting Russian children.
Russia has three months to appeal the decision by the European Court of Human Rights.
The panel of seven judges, including one Russian, ruled unanimously that Russia’s application of a 2013 law that banned U.S. citizens from adopting Russian children was discriminatory.
The case was brought by 45 U.S. citizens who had been in the final stages of the adoption process. Many of the children they planned to adopt had serious health issues.
The human rights court said it awarded 3,000 euros ($3,180) in damages plus $600 in legal costs to each pair of prospective parents, according to a news release.
More than 200 U.S. families were in the midst of trying to adopt children from Russia when the ban was rushed through Russia’s parliament and signed by President Vladimir Putin in December 2012 in retaliation for a U.S. law that sanctioned Russians said to have violated human rights.
The ban also reflected Russian resentment over the 60,000 Russian children adopted by U.S. citizens in the past two decades, about 20 of whom died from abuse, neglect or other causes while in the care of their adoptive parents.
By the Russians’ count, the ban halted the pending adoptions of 259 children.
The court ruled that banning only U.S. adoptions was disproportionate and discriminatory. It noted that prospective parents had visited children they wanted to adopt in orphanages and bonded with them before the ban abruptly cut short the process.
Russia’s government “failed to show that there had been compelling reasons to justify such a retroactive and indiscriminate blanket ban on all prospective U.S. parents,” the court said.